I participated in my first NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago. It was an attempt to get my first manuscript out. At that point I didn’t have much experience in writing, I had a topic in mind but no plot or idea where my manuscript was going. I remember being delighted with the idea of writing two thousand words per day. I would be together with a whole community of writers, in the same position as me. I wouldn’t feel alone in the process. However, as I look back, I think that I was so worried about the daily goal, that I was giving more importance to its achievement than to the development of my manuscript story. I won NaNoWriMo that time (winning means writing 2000 words per day in all the month – an equivalent of 50 000 words of manuscript). But as I look back, I would have liked more time to develop this story. I sort of rushed the plot into a story that I found myself not liking very much later. Right now, this manuscript is in standby, it has room for improvement. Perhaps it would have been finished by now if I had given more thought to its plot at that time.
I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo the next years. I don’t regret the first time either. It pushed me more into writing. I’ve passed from having the dream of one day wanting to write a novel to having a draft of a manuscript in a short time, something I thought it would never happened in my life.
However, this year I’m participating. I have a new story in mind. But my approach this year is different. In this month, I want to give as much thought and work as possible to my new story but without the daily goal of 2000 words per day. My objective is to make of this month a key month for my new manuscript, and I also want to feel that I’m participating in something bigger, with a whole community in the process.
I’m focusing on writing with inspiration – I like this state of mind. The characters and story so far are nice and are exciting me. I’m no longer worried about having the story finished as soon as possible. I’m loving the process of discovering the story as I write. The process of discovering my own characters as the story continues. There is no goal per day. I write in the mornings before I start my job. I found out that this works for me. When I was doing the opposite, writing at the end of day, I was so tired and didn’t want to seat on the computer any longer in the evening. Now doing this in the early morning gives me a sense of replenishment and fullness that lets me start the day accomplishing one of my main goals in my life.
To be honest, I’d been stuck with my manuscript for months already. Recently, I wrote how I planned to practically start over from scratch. At the end, I decided to take a similar approach, go over it but not with editing eyes (I’ve edited those sentences so many times that I didn’t know if I was actually improving them or making them worse) but read it critically, plotwise, characterwise. I felt that my biggest weakness was character development, I felt them flat. That is why I choose a very good advice from my blog friend Glynis in “Productive or Busy” (who also took it from her friend Shari) about writing separately several character pages (not necessarily related to the plot but their life story in general) to get a feeling of the characters. I loved the idea and started doing this on my current manuscript.
As soon as I started just writing, I got those chills you have when inspiration hits you and you just start typing endlessly, feeling the flow of the words. I love this state. I know I don’t do my best writing from the grammatical/structure point of view, the writing is rather awful, but I get to release all the feelings and everything I feel should be put to paper.
After this cool experience, I had to go for a fanfiction story. I know being a geek has led me to write fanfiction stories before. This is a weird path for writing since fanfiction involves writing about characters that have already been created, but it is still writing and I had to do it. It felt so liberating that I thought that I was finally rediscovering my writing spirit again. The fan fiction story only awoke my inner writing muse. This was a one time short story and it is already finished, and I don’t plan to revisit the world of fanfiction for a while, however this process has stirred the desire that I’ve been having for some time to start a new story, for leaving my manuscript resting for a while, and just start telling this new story that has been doing circles in my head.
I realized that I might not be the first one. I’m pretty sure several writers have jumped to a different work and left others to rest for a while. So I’ve started writing a new manuscript for a week already. I’ve been doing it daily (which wasn’t happening with my other writing) and I feel excited about it, ideas are flowing to my mind and I feel happy. I still plan to revisit my previous manuscript’s character pages since that aside process was been going well, but I feel like this new writing has strengthened and invigorated my new writing spirit.
And you, has it ever happened to you that you started writing other projects without finishing others? Do you think it is a good idea?
It has been several months since I haven’t posted a blog post. And today was the day that I decided I would not go to bed until I finally did it. Work and travel are the excuses in general – and I won’t go to discuss them more since I want to jump into blogging pools as soon as possible without lamenting why I didn’t blog these months.
My manuscript continues to be a manuscript. However, it seems it was for the best. After going through multiple reviews and editing rounds, I decided it needs a complete makeover. The story is nice, the theme topic is interesting, but it is not the book that I think it could be. I’ve struggled so much to keep the same characters and to bring to life all situations in the book, but I reached a point where I need to acknowledge that my characters might not strong enough, neither interesting enough and some situations feel awkward and forced into the plot. Maybe leaving the manuscript to rest for a long time was a good idea after all.
At this point, I’m not completely sure how to target this. Should I work on revamping the book, adjusting situations, and changing the characters over the existing framework, or just start from scratch?
Starting from scratch sounds good, but if I were to start a new complete book, then why insist on this “theme topic”? I have a couple of other better theme topics to explore. However, I cannot simply give up almost two years invested on this manuscript. Somehow, deep inside, I still want to rescue it and rescue all the time invested in it.
When I started working on my first book, I had the following plan:
I would finish the draft in four of five months at most
I would make a thorough review of the first manuscript and in one single edition round I would correct everything that is wrong.
My beta readers will read it in a couple of weeks and I would rejoice in his/her wonderful comments
I would find a great Literary agent in a blink of an eye
I would have the book published in that same year
I would live from my writing and would travel the world.
I was naïve. REALLY naive.
This is the second year I’m investing in my first book. I’m still editing it. So far I’ve come to understand the following:
Doing the first draft is by far the easiest and quickest part of the process
When I finished the first draft, I was so thrilled. I felt I have conquered the world and I could be called a writer. I was so proud of myself. I thought that finally I was making something good with my life, that I was looking towards the future, towards my goals, you get the point…The truth is that writing the first draft is the easiest part. You can even achieve it in one month (If you want to test the efficiency of NaNoWriMo). But rest assured the first draft will not be readable yet. Chances are it will still have lots of plot holes and huge amounts of rewrite to be done.
2. Planning one round of revision is not realistic at all
There will be many rounds of revision. It’s hard to rewrite scenes, plot holes, and work on character development while editing your grammar and punctuation at the same time. You’ll probably need another round, and perhaps a third one, etc. Additionally, after your beta readers come to you with feedback, chances are you’ll probably need to change and rewrite many sections of your book which will lead you to another round of sentence structure/grammar review, etc., again.
3. Leaving your first manuscript to rest for a couple of weeks and even a month is not a bad idea
I knew about this tip way before I finished my first manuscript. Nonetheless, I was in such a hurry of having everything done that as soon as I finished my first manuscript, I started to edit it on the very next day. I didn’t leave it to rest and breath. My head didn’t have time to clear enough to target my manuscript with a fresh point of view. The result was several pointless rounds of revision until I decided to finally give myself a break and leave the manuscript for a month. During this time, I wrote other short stories, I read more, etc. When I finally returned to my old good manuscript, my mind was fresh and I could detect more issues than in all those previous three rounds. I identified huge gaps where I could improve. If only I’ve done that before my first round of revision… I would’ve probably faced my manuscript with much better criteria from the first edition round.
4. Your beta readers won’t give you feedback in a couple of weeks
I had three good beta readers, but it took time to receive their feedback. You have to take into account that not all of them are available to read your manuscript as soon as you deliver it. Unless you’re paying for a beta reading service, most of these people will be doing you a favor. You’ll probably need to wait until they have time. Not all of them can read books in a couple of days; they might need more time. Not all of them have only your book to read; they might need to put it in their queue of “still to read books”.
5. Good Beta Readers will say the truth and cause many changes in your book
Let’s face it. This is your first book ever. You can’t expect to nail a best seller that soon. You’ll need a lot of time,experience, and good listening skills. You need to pay attention to your beta reader’s feedback. And I’m talking about good beta readers, not your mom, your husband, etc., but people who will be able to judge the manuscript and say what is in their minds without any fear of hurting your feelings. You have to acknowledge that as the author of your book, you know how the plot works, you know how characters look in your mind, but sometimes you fail to translate this knowledge into the written world. Chances are you’ll still need to change and rewrite after your beta reader’s feedback.
6. Character development is not achieved at once
If this is your first book, then you’ll probably struggle with nailing “character development”. Even if you outline characters before you start the book, they’ll probably develop and change as your plot changes. Their behaviors will change depending on how the direction of your books goes or how scenes are improved. Providing a three-dimensional character is harder than you think. It wasn’t until many revisions and feedback that I had enough tools to develop my characters as they should.
7. Developing your voice doesn’t come so fast
It doesn’t matter how many books about writing you read and how many writing courses you attend. Developing your voice only comes with practice. Sometimes, you want to obey all writing rules and make your sentences’ structure perfect, but then you find yourself with a boring flat manuscript. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to know the rules. To break the rules, you need to know them first. But you can’t expect to find your writing voice in the first round of writing. Perhaps you won’t even find it in your first book.
8. Don’t hire any editing service until you’ve received plenty feedback
I made the mistake of hiring an editing service (which was very good) before I got all the feedback. My third beta reader was able to send me his feedback after my manuscript was already edited by a professional editor. This feedback was very helpful and had lots of good advice plot-wise, which meant I had to do significant changes and rewrite many scenes and even chapters. The result, the professionally edited text was gone. It would’ve been certainly helpful to hire this service after all revisions and feedback.
9. Consider your first book may not be publishable
In my plans above, I clearly talk about getting a literary agent, publishing it, and having enough earnings to live from my writing. The reality is different. And the truth is your first book could not be published yet or could not be published at all. You need to accept this fact from the beginning. It’s a learning curve. My mind already has tons of topics to write other books; they even sound more interesting than the manuscript I’m working with right now. Perhaps book two or three will be published. Perhaps my first book will be revisited in a couple of years and later published. At this point, I only care about improving my writing.
10. This is only your first experience
Writing a first book is about gaining experience. It doesn’t matter how perfect your book idea is, how charming your characters are, or how beautifully you construct prose, the process is still tricky with the first book. You still need to learn how to handle feedback, how to detect plot holes, how to find your voice, how to make useful rounds of edition, etc. If you take this point of view, I guarantee you’ll find the experience more rewarding than the publishing result. You’ll be more excited about your next projects and you won’t suffer so much if the path of delivering your first book looks too hard. Best of all, you’ll encounter the true meaning of being a writer.
The best moments when I read a book is when I find myself laughing due to the author’s wit and good sense of humor. As I hear my laugh echoing through the room where I read, without any apparent reason, I feel lucky to be enjoying something “secret” or “hidden” that people around me in public spaces won’t probably never get to know. I get to enjoy characters only to myself which (in a selfish manner) I don’t get to share with those around me. Those are the times when I mostly appreciate good humour in Literature, either intended or not.
After enjoying these moments, I find myself wanting to write as these authors. I want people to enjoy my stories as I do when I read others. But then I ask myself, could I ever write a comedy? It’s hard enough to come up with one witty remark, never mind the entire length of a comedy-based novel. I’m pretty sure those who achieve writing in the “comedy” genre can be named genius. Maybe some writers are born to write in this genre. Maybe only people like comedians are the ones who should answer this call.
No more than a week ago, I started my first “comedy genre” book. For those curious about the title, I’m reading Timur Vermes “Look who’s back” which had a book cover that promised to deliver “a comedy of all sorts”,”clever, funny,” book and so on. Please, don’t go into questioning my book selection. I know the book has become controversial, so I won’t go into discussing why I’m reading this book. Just let me tell you, that I’m reading it with an open mind and in the effort to understand more about this literature genre . But as far as I gotten into the book (one-third of its lenght ), I haven’t laughed much. Is it because I don’t understand the book’s sense of humour? Maybe the fun style has been lost in translation (the book has been translated from German) But if this is not the case, and if different people react different to diverse styles of comedy, then how can you write a fun, clever book that appeals to a vast majority? Is there a secret, hidden recipe somewhere to tackle all funny bones in the whole population?
If it weren’t possible , the comedy genre wouldn’t prevail. I don’t believe there’s a successful formula. But I might have detected one possible self-barrier. Whenever I come up with a funny remark while writing, I usually erase it almost immediately, afraid it will sound stupid or even insulting to some people. Without noticing, an internal judging voice makes me consider any funny statement. And I bet most writers face this challenge. Writing comedy is for the brave, for the ones that laugh at life, at oneself, and don’t care much about criticism . They don’t care if people don’t laugh; they are aware not all of them will do. But they still go out there.
By not laughing at Vermes’ book, does it make me a different person to please? Does that make me a writer with more difficulties to write comedy?
Lastly, I would like to leave you with Chris O’Dowd’s quote:
And you, how do you go about writing funny remarks or comedy?